Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pirate101 Test Realm: New Adventures and Hidden Treasures

After months and months of (mostly) patient waiting, Pirate101 has opened the doors of the Test Realm to reveal the sources of teasers that have been circulating the Spiral since November. Brand-new features like Advanced Pets, Advanced Companions and Group Plunder Chests have taken the pirating world by storm. In addition to new features, old features have also been revamped, including the three quests to save the spirits of the crew Ratbeard betrayed back towards the very beginning of the game. Instead of traveling to familiar places around Skull Island, Pirates now get to travel to mysterious and exotic locations never before seen in the Skull Island skyway. Today I'll walk you through these new areas and let you in on a few interesting details.

There are three new areas, and the first one will be free-to-play- that's right, f2p players are getting more content! As for those of you who had completed the old quests, it appears that we will be able to enjoy the new quests, too. Simply run over to Blood Shoals and talk to the rat pirates inside the cave to begin.

Chucklesworth and I begin our journey in Blood Shoals, talking to the lost souls of Ratbeard's crew. Manny, the first ghost, directs us to talk to a man of many years and questionable mental health, who has been trapped in a cave with dangerous Aztecosaurs after being abandoned by Manny and the rest of his crew.

This barmy captain, Zadok, rants and raves about finding treasure just above our heads- all we have to do is get the lift basket in working order. After grappling with a few enemies, we get the winch working and ascend, finding ourselves in... Azteca?

Not quite. We have actually wound up in a mysterious place called Xol Akmul. According to the first dino we meet, Oxlahun Zotz, a whole group of Aztecosaurs came to the Skull Island skyway to seek refuge from Morganthe and the doom comet Xibalba (Wizard101 players get to experience this first-hand when they reach level 80). However, it seems that they've gone out of the frying pan and into the fire. Someone has cursed the Aztecosaurs, driving them mad with bloodlust.

Chucklesworth and I set out to help the Aztecosaurs lift the curse. We meet the two leaders of the group, who are wary of promises made by humans (AKA Morganthe) but eventually let us help them. We battle a few Aztecosaurs and find ourselves in the Pyramid of Fire: a crypt full of dangerous enemies under the influence of the curse, and we are left to defeat them as we descend deeper into the pyramid to the source of the curse.

At the center we find ourselves surrounded by lava and crystal statues. Yet more Aztecosaurs try to stop us, but Chucklesworth, Bonnie Anne, Subodai, Fan Flanders and I steamroll them. We succeed in destroying the crystal statues and lift the curse on the Aztecosaurs. In return for our hard work, they give us some gold for a job well done, which we take back to an overjoyed Zadok.

I might get some weird looks for saying this, but this area is my idea of the perfect Pirate101-Wizard101 crossover: there are characters who have interacted with elements from both games, but it avoids fully inserting Pirates in a Wizard world and vice versa. I've never really enjoyed the idea of Pirates running around in the exact same places that Wizards have been simply because this greatly limits the creativity the developing team can put forth. It feels tacky and unoriginal, raises more questions than it could ever possibly answer and leaves very little room for anything very interesting for those who play both games- or anything relatable to those who haven't played Wizard101. Just think Jimmy Timmy Power Hour (link to

While previous experience with Azteca in Wizard101 makes the Xol Akmul experience a little more powerful, P101-only players are given enough info to know that the Aztecosaurs have had some pretty bad experiences with humans in the past and aren't quick to accept help even when they need it most- a powerful idea that speaks for itself and effectively gives a heartbreaking picture of what horrific things these 'saurs might have experienced.

Once we've set Manny's soul to rest, it's time to help Moe. When his true love, Wilhelmina fell in love with someone else, he stole her mother's wedding ring so that she and her new love couldn't get married. So we go up the cave above to get the ring out of a chest where Moe says it's hidden. A few plucked skarakeets later, we have the ring and rush to return it to Wilhelmina.
In the typical fashion of piratical antics, there's a catch. Wilhelmina's fiancé, Captain Gordon, is missing. He's found himself in the hands- er, claws of the Red Claw Gang after ending a smuggling syndicate, so of course it's up to us to track him down.

After much chasing and questioning of crabs, we find Gordon trapped in a cage above a soup, about to become the main course of the evening! The crabs are willing to make a trade, however; if we bring them the golden hook of the Floating Dutchman, the crabs will let Gordon go free. Sounds simple enough.

We learn the location of the Marie Celestia, the floating Dutchman's ship, and set sail for Perdition's Cauldron: a dark and spooky place where the Dutchman's ship still idly floats.

When I got off my ship I noticed something very peculiar in the wreckage. It is definitely a foreign ship that we've never seen before, and it reminds me of something we might see in Krokotopia. Has KI given us some foreshadowing? Perhaps so.

This dungeon is by far my favorite of all the new dungeons. We progress through the deck and three rooms below, all of which are designed very well and are colorful yet eerie. The battles never get boring as each battle board is set up differently, including the second to last fight where our Pirates must watch their step to avoid falling through the broken floor and into Perdition's Cauldron itself. While each boss in the three new areas has their own defeat requirements (the Emperor Prawn hides behind crystals that must be destroyed and you must break the final Aztecosaur crystal statue to complete the Pyramid of Fire boss fight), the Floating Dutchman actually cheats by putting a health-draining curse on anyone within his immediate vicinity. I'm impressed and very satisfied by this, as it will give new players a taste of advanced Pirate101 gameplay while not being overly difficult. It also gives a sense of accomplishment and, I feel, will encourage further gameplay if the player knows they can defeat a cheating boss so early on. And for us higher-level Pirates, it's sure to keep fights interesting as we farm for pets and equipment.

Finally we have Jack. He tells us of a terrible secret: he's been helping Cutthroats spy on Captain Avery. We confront the sharks in their underwater lair, taking out the sharks and what is apparently their pet Humongo Crab "Mister Buttersauce."

Unfortunately they don't reveal their plan to us, so we go out ship hunting, sinking Cutthroat Ships until they spill the beans. Turns out they want to get Avery out of the picture and take back Skull Island! Avery is unconcerned by this, but the Buccaneer trainer Mordekai knows better and sends us to check out the secret docks to see if there are traitors trying to infiltrate the island. Sure enough, we encounter Sneaky Sharky McFin, who doesn't sound very much like a pirate with his stilted speech. But the shark flees before we can question him further.

Vadima gives us a spell to help us see the enemy and sends us to the ancient tunnels below the island. We find Seger, a traitor, who tells us that we should head to Devilfish Hollow.

There, we find yet more sharks, and this time there's a... Prawn? We learn that there's a plan to ram a ship loaded with explosives into Skull Island, so we rush to the ship to keep it from launching.

We stop the attack just in time, only to find that the enemy is ready to keep going forward with the plan, so we head to the hiding place of the Prawns... Turns out there's been a shrimp-themed temple at the top of the volcano in Skull Island this entire time and nobody noticed!

The Emperor Prawn is less than pleased to see us, but he poses no threat to us powerful Pirates, and we save the day. Mordecai has us go back to Blood Shoals to tell Jack that he is forgiven for being involved in the plot.

And so ends our epic journey across the new areas in Pirate101. These new areas are great and demonstrate the Pirate101 team's ability to create content that is fully enjoyable by both low-level and high-level Pirates with its luscious graphics, unique area layouts, interesting storylines and unique boss loot. If you'd like to know more about the bosses themselves and the loot they drop, head on over to Swordroll's blog to check out his guide on the bosses' stats and drop tables (hint: the Emperor Prawn has an awesome new hat drop).

Swordroll's Pirate101 Skull Island Expansion Boss and Drop Guide

Side Note: Devilfish Hollow

This is my favorite non-dungeon area for many reasons. First and foremost, it's one of the most beautiful places KI has come up with (in my opinion ;)). Secondly, Mordekai said we shouldn't go any deeper than necessary "for now." This means we will be seeing other quests through here later on. Will they be side quests? Will the main storyline have us crossing through here again? Only time will tell, at this point.

The cave is actually quite huge and extends far beyond the two dungeon sigils that our Pirates have access to.

The cave can be divided up into three parts: the entrance with the Water Moles and Spiders, the Troggies down the way, and the Cutthroat Pirates at the end. It's apparent that we will see side quests or perhaps even a reshaped main storyline through here around level 20 or 25, as the Troggies' and Cutthroats' levels range from 20 to 25.

In addition, there is a mysterious new boss! In the upper left-hand corner of the map you will find a group of ordinary giant spiders (well, ok, I suppose they're just as ordinary as dog-sized spiders could be). This boss looks like a tarantula with silly eyes. But be warned- he's not as goofy as he seems, weighing in at level 26 with 1025 health, Turn the Tide, Relentless II and Blade Storm; not for the faint of heart.

For those Pirates who are brave enough to take him on, he drops only pet snacks and pet equipment: valuable items for avid pet trainers.

The landscape of the cave is beautifully done, capturing the mystery of the Troggies and their culture and the spookiness of the Cutthroats' apparent hideout. With this area we also, for the first time, see idle enemies that aren't actively walking around. There are groups of three Cutthroats standing around facing each other, as if having a conversation, and pairs of enemies that stand guard at various points throughout the caves.

Most mysterious, perhaps, is in the furthest reaches of the caves. There lies a giant monument of sorts. It seems to be made of a giant shark's jaw and is suspended over a pit of lava. Is this some sort of nefarious scheme our Pirates will uncover later on? Is this where you end up if you mess with the Cutthroats and don't get away with it?
These mysteries and more await you in Devilfish Hollow. If you have a Pirate who can easily handle enemies of at least level 26, go and explore the caves on the Test Realm. You, too, might discover something really cool.

For other exciting things to do in the Pirate101 Test Realm, check out Destiny's post on favorite activities in the ol' TR.

Destiny's Five Favorite To-Dos in the Pirate101 Test Realm

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